One of the best sci-fi films in recent years and possibly one of the best films of this year, Arrival explores the ‘we are not alone’ idea in a whole new way and the effects are mesmerising. As science fiction stories are about humans than the future, Arrival really does feel like a movie made for 2016.
From the opening scene and music, a poignant feeling settles in. Dr Louise Banks (Amy Adams) has suffered a terrible loss and has buried herself in her work as a professor, teaching linguistics and language. Then one day, twelve pod-shaped alien crafts arrive on Earth, hovering above the ground in various places around the world – including Devon, my current home! But that’s irrelevant to the overall plot. Sadly.
As the governments across the world struggle to determine why the alien crafts are there, Louise is approached by military intelligence, lead by Colonel Weber (Forest Whitaker) who requests her assistance and expertise in language to help communicate and discover the reason for the aliens’ presence on Earth. Alongside Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner) a leading quantum physicist, Louise is suited up and enters the craft to make contact.
It is best to leave the rest of the details of the plot unsaid to not give anything away, but it provides much excitement seeing the film unfold, and it is hard to guess where it is heading.
Arrival is possibly director Denis Villeneuve’s – director of Prisoners and Sicario most stunning film yet both visually and story wise. A slower pace than his other films, and definitely different from other alien invasion films, the film doesn’t waste time unnecessarily. Serious and smart, it feels as though nothing makes sense until it is all pieced together.
The films’ themes primarily hang on the idea that we do not experience the same reality, that we do not all see and experience time in the same way and the aliens are not an exception to this concept. To understand it, Arrival suggests that language is the basis of all communication. As Louise attempts to communicate with the aliens, the questions are asked about how it can be possible to understand them, and whether everyone can cope and process the experience.
Despite the shifts from political conspiracy and human betrayal, Villeneuve keeps focus on the story and character. Adams is a fantastic choice as the lead. Though the grieving hero could be seen as a cliché, Adams balances Louise’s frustrations of her military co-workers and awe of the aliens along with her personal troubles completely naturally. Her performance in the film is the shining heart of the film and Villeneuve shows this frequently with close-ups on her and not showing us the alien pod crafts until Louise herself sees them in person.
A perfectly polished film full of emotion and intrigue, it gets you thinking, as any good film should, without you trying to criticise the minute details. Like the best sci-fi films, it has something to say about the world today, especially about the importance and need for communication and that we need to overlook and rise above the cultural and social divides for our survival.